Do you allow others to take advantage of you? Do you avoid speaking up for yourself? Well, now’s the time to build your backbone! One that works, doesn’t wobble, and gets stronger when used.
What is a backbone, anyway? A backbone is a symbol of strength in character, an unwillingness to be used or taken for granted, and a firm commitment to uphold one’s decisions and feelings. We’ve all seen and heard of people who have a backbone; they are the strong ones, the ones who get what they want.
How do you know if you have a backbone? Ask yourself these questions:
- Do you resent someone in your life?
- Do you feel taken advantage of?
- Do you often complain but nothing changes?
- Do you keep all of your emotions in?
- Do you avoid conflict?
- Have you said yes when you meant no?
- Have you allowed your anger to build up and come out in other ways?
- Have you compromised self-care for others-care?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you could use a backbone adjustment!
First, let’s understand why backbone building is so hard. Often, we’ve been hurt and have learned to give in to avoid a conflict or, worse, getting hurt even further. Another possible reason we may not use our backbone is that we lack self-esteem and confidence. But it costs us in the long run: we don’t speak up, we don’t make waves, and we allow ourselves to be treated disrespectfully in order to keep the peace.
The benefits of a backbone are many. A backbone, or confidence in our strength, allows us to feel:
- respected, not used and taken advantage of
- in control of our lives
- empowered, not belittled
- secure, not second guessing ourselves
- confident that we’ve created a life plan—and live it
We may feel a compromised sense of strength in our marriages, our parenting, our work, with our extended family, or with ourselves. In our marriages, our strength is compromised when we ignore important issues, stop communicating, and don’t speak honestly. Similarly, when we are disrespected at work or when parenting, and the issue isn’t resolved, we may feel walked on and relationships may suffer. Our extended family exposes a compromised backbone when we don’t communicate our needs properly to them, when we are available even when our schedule does not allow for it, and when others dictate our lives. We can be compromised with ourselves as well. Haven’t we all been irresponsible, ignored truths, and improperly cared for ourselves?
There are three easy steps to strengthening your backbone.
Deal, Heal, and Reveal
The first step, dealing, means observing when we are being backbone-less. Make a mental note when you shrink, when you feel lowered, and when you inappropriately compromise. Think of the consequences of speaking up, saying no, or quitting. What’s the worst that can happen? Can you deal with the discomfort? If yes, move to step two. If not, repeat step one until you feel stronger.
Step two is about healing. Using your instincts or your gut reaction, make a small decision and stand by it. Say no once. Next, make a few more decisions and say no a few more times. Do not ruminate on past mistakes and decisions. Keep going. Feel yourself getting stronger. Now you know better, and you’ll do better.
Step three is to reveal the new, updated version of you—backbone intact! Use your newfound character firmness to create a life plan with balance and reciprocity. As you gain strength and stand straighter, others will notice. You’ll be respected more, you’ll have more self-esteem, and you’ll no longer be allowing your life to be determined by others. Get out there and grow your backbone!
© Copyright 2014 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Angela Avery, MA, LLPC, NCC, Obsessions and Compulsions / OCD Topic Expert Contributor
The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.